Matthew 1. Fittingly the New Testament begins with Jesus, with His identity. He is the Christ, son of David and son of Abraham. He is the promised king of the line of David: ‘The Lord himself will make a house for you. When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever’ (2 Samuel 7:11-13 CSB). The Jews in Jesus’ time were waiting expectantly for the birth of this king who would rule Israel and deliver her from her enemies.
He too, is the son of Abraham. Abraham was the founding father of the Jews. From him a great nation would arise having a land of its own. Through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3), all the nations (Genesis 22:18). This blessing would come through Abraham, through Christ: ‘…if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise’ (Galatians 3:29 ESV).
Matthew 1:2-16 establishes Jesus’ identity as son of David and son of Abraham by tracing His genealogy from Abraham and the patriarchs, through David and right up to Joseph, the husband of Mary. This is the royal line, showing Jesus is the promised Davidic king. Of interest, given the patriarchal culture, is the presence of four women in the genealogy: Tamar, who committed incest with Judah, Rahab, the prostitute who saved the spies, Ruth, a Gentile, and the wife of Uriah (Bathsheba), who committed adultery with David. In this way the narrative draws attention to Jesus having both sinful women and Gentile women, Rahab and Ruth, in His lineage, perhaps pointing to Jesus as the Saviour of sinners and of the Gentiles. This is in keeping with Matthew’s focus on the Gentiles in his Gospel.
Next we have the well-known story of Jesus’ birth. I’ll skip the story and focus on the theology: who Jesus is and why He was born. Note that Matthew has already called Jesus ‘Christ’ or ‘the Christ’ three times (verses 1, 16 & 17). He does so again in verse 18. ‘Christ’ is the Greek word for the Hebrew ‘Messiah’, the anointed one. Kings were anointed and still are, at least in the UK and Thailand.
In the birth narrative we learn three things about Jesus.
- He was born of a virgin. The angel told Joseph, ‘what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 1:20 CSB). Joseph was not the father (cf. verses 16 & 25). If Joseph was Jesus’ father and Mary, His mother, then Jesus would be just another human being. But if what was conceived in Mary was from the Spirit, then Jesus has a divine origin – and a human origin as Mary conceived him. So the Church later acknowledged that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.
- Obeying the angel, Joseph named the baby ‘Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21). ‘Jesus’ in Hebrew means ‘God saves’. His name tells us why He came. As God he could save us, as man He could bear our sins.
- Jesus would be called Immanuel: ‘See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” ’ (Matthew 1:23). As ‘God with us’, He would show us what God is really like – ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9 ESV). As God with us and as a man like us, He would be our Mediator before God (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5).
And as ‘God with us’ and our Saviour, He would bring us to God in the new creation, where God will dwell with us and we shall dwell with God. Hallelujah, what a Saviour! That is the Christmas message.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for becoming one of us so that You could save us and take us to be with You always. Amen.